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Audience Engagement with Social Media, Television Viewing, News Processing and Political Participation

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Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media

         The current media landscape reflects an unprecedented breadth and depth in terms of content diversity and delivery modalities. This abundance in media program offerings suggests a robust opportunity for audience engagement with media content via different technology platforms, which extend varying affordances for audience interaction with such content.   True to its scholarly mission and intellectual endeavor, JoBEM has published a series of empirical research articles that not only capture the essence of this burgeoning digital media scene, but also advance our understanding of scientific knowledge and best practices about the social meanings of the digital communication era.

          This series of empirically-based research articles encompasses several timely topic areas in digital media research.  The first topic area addresses how and why the audience interacts with social media as well as how they watch television and their viewing platform preference. Specifically, the articles published under this rubric provide both a social media engagement scale and a social media uses-and-gratifications scale.  They also delve into the motivations for binge watching, which is closely related to video-streaming platform adoption; the rise of video-streamed “television” viewing then leads to a decline in cable television consumption.

        The second topic area explicates how the framing of news and political commentary influences audience beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.  One study suggests that video news is less impactful than a news article in triggering the cognitive response intended by the story.  Another study reveals that the audience is more invested in emotionally charged online news stories that contain aspirational rather than fearful story content.  Relatedly, when the news content is presented by a partisan cable-TV news/talk program host, the audience that shares a like-minded partisan orientation with the TV host considers the program content to be more factual, due to perceived credibility of and parasocial interaction with the host.  

        While the third topic area also investigates political participation by the TV audience, it examines audience interaction with real-life and fictional political leaders.  In one study, cognitive response to a 2016 presidential debate is significantly disrupted due to audience engagement with dual screens during exposure.  Hence, dual-screening weakens the effects of viewing exposure.  In another study, the audience that experiences narrative transportation and parasocial interaction –  with female political leaders in TV dramas – also reports greater interest and efficacy with political participation. 

        The last topic area profiles a systematic review of the concept of website interactivity and its effects on the users. The study featured here is a meta-analysis that presents a comprehensive empirical examination of user cognitions.  Study findings reveal significant insights into digital communication research.  They indicate that interactivity facilitates cognitive absorption but not comprehension, elaboration, memory and knowledge gain for the users.  These findings also suggest that experiential websites can enhance cognitive outcomes but not informational websites.


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Media, Cultural and Communication Studies